Polemicscat's Weblog

Examining settled and unsettling questions.

Can We Take Fashion Seriously?

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Anything new is irresistible to many people. The urge to have the new goes hand in hand with the flawed assumption that change of any kind is always an improvement.  That impulse makes millions for commercial enterprises while rendering perfectly functional equipment obsolete. What’s better than this computer’s operating system? That’s easy to answer: Why, next year’s version!

I bought Vista because the software I wanted to use runs only on Vista. There was one little hitch— none of the other software I had would run on Vista. I decided I’d learn to live without the Vista-only software and went back to XP. Looking at the big picture, I figured I’m probably not going to live long enough to make learning all the new software for Vista a practical activity, anyway.

Some economist needs to do a study to determine whether this rage for the new is absolutely necessary to keep the economy afloat. Doesn’t it just send a lot of resources to the garbage dump? And isn’t that really borrowing on the future since the earth’s resources are finite?

Unfortunately, it’s true that the passion for fashion rules. It certainly dominates in the realm of cars, clothes, and coiffure. Consider this. There is only a limited number of ways to shape an automobile to convey the human body in comfort and convenience; a limited number of ways to wrap the human body in cloth; a limited number of ways to arrange the hair on a person’s head. We have tried different automobile shapes for a hundred years; we have tried different clothes and different hairstyles for thousands of years. Surely in that time we have discovered the most aesthetically pleasing and the best functioning. But because fashion demands change, we revert to the ugly and the grotesque.

“Yes,” you say, “but what of variety as the spice of life?” I answer, “If variety is the aim, why were people so rude about Hillary’s abominable hats? Why are people so intolerant of the styles of yesteryear? Why are people so preoccupied with the best-dressed and worst-dressed celebrity each year?”

The young people of each generation look at the clothes and hair worn by their parents fifteen or twenty years earlier and giggle. They giggle and never seem to realize that in years to come their own children will snicker at the clothes and hair they are wearing today. And so it goes one generation after another; the giggling and snickering in each case grows out of the mindless assumption that there is an absolute standard of good taste but only one’s own generation knows what it is.

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